Ministers have spent the past 12 months in an almighty flap about how to stem a feared flood of Bulgarian and Romanian migrants once transitional controls on their freedom of movement lift. They’ve announced and re-announced measures on benefit tourism, housing and access to public services. But while they’ve been tinkering with these measures which may or may not make any difference to the number of people who do pitch up, they’ve managed to forget one very effective measure indeed.
If only David Cameron had exclusively revealed to the worried press months ago that the best way of deterring an influx would be to deploy Home Affairs Committee chair Keith Vaz to personally patrol the UK border. Today the Labour MP was waiting at Luton airport, along with Tory MP Mark Reckless, to greet the first ‘wave’ of migrants, and offer some of them coffee.
He will certainly offer a unique impression of the UK for those arriving. After all, this is the chap who decided to respond to criticism from fellow committee member Michael Ellis by telling him to have more sex, who likes to grill witnesses on whether they really, really love their country, and who likes to tweet his observations about parliamentary colleagues’ weight (especially awkward when it turns out the weight loss was due to a serious illness). In recent days Vaz has been touted as a replacement to Speaker Bercow, but Mr Steerpike feels he would be wasted in this role. What Vaz should instead do is personally patrol the UK border every day. He could become a key weapon in Theresa May’s battle to drive down net migration into the tens of thousands.